What Is Mobile First Indexing?


Google has announced the rollout of the mobile-first indexing update. This comes a year after it revealed plans to unveil how desktop and mobile sites are ranked on SERP. During this period, Google has been running tests on implementing a mobile-first search experience, and now it is ready to unveil this new system.

Over the years, there has been a lot of confusion and conflicting reports regarding the mobile first indexing trials.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

Below is the explanation offered by Google when it announced the rollout;

“To recap, our crawling, indexing and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”

This is the easiest explanation of what a mobile-first indexing is. Over the years, there has been an enormous increase in the number of searches performed on mobiles.  But search results are determined by a system that gives preference to desktop pages first. It does not make any sense to send people who perform a search on mobile to desktop optimized pages, as mobile pages are different from their desktop alternatives. The mobile first indexing addresses this problem by giving priority to the mobile version of pages to Google predominant mobile search users.

Now, this does not mean Google has created a separate index for desktop and mobile results. It also does not mean it is going mobile only. It simply implies that Google will attempt to crawl a mobile version of a search page first. If it does not find such a page it will fall back to the desktop version.

Mobile First Indexing and Its Implications for SEO

Mobile first indexing is a big deal, and it is definitely going to influence search results. The impact on websites and SEO will be minimal. There is no need to panic, this is no Mobilegeddon. However, it is essential that you know whether your website will be affected or not.

How Will Mobile First Indexing Affects My Search Ranking

How your site responds to this update will depend on how optimized your website is for mobile. If you have a mobile and desktop responsive site, meaning both your desktop and mobile sites are the same, you won’t be affected by the mobile indexing.

This means your website will simply adapt to different screen sizes showing the same pages. This is in accordance with mobile optimization guidelines as published by Google. Websites that offer different desktop and mobile pages for users will be the most affected. The mobile version of the site will be crawled first which could negatively impact search rankings for the following reasons.

  • Your desktop and its mobile alternative serve different contents
  • There is no metadata on your mobile pages
  • You have poorly optimized mobile pages
  • The mobile alternative of your website is not correctly verified in search console
  • The data on your mobile pages is poorly structured.

Most of the problems that can arise from the mobile first indexing boil down to poor mobile optimization. If you follow ethical mobile optimization guidelines your website will be fine.

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